By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Richard Gordon,Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman, on Tuesday took to task former Tourism secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo over her failure to exercise due diligence in scrutinizing the details of the supposed P60-million advertisement deal between the Department of Tourism (DOT) and People’s Television Network, Inc. (PTV4).
Gordon said he finds it impossible that Tulfo-Teo was unaware that the tourism ad placements would be played in a news magazine show that is hardly picking up ratings in the first place.
And this is why, he said, lawmakers find it unbelievable that the former DOT chief is oblivious to the fact that her brother’s media production company, BITAG Media Unlimited Inc. (BMUI) is at the receiving end of the contract entered into by the government with PTV-4.
“Did you bother to find out whether having a contract with your brother is legal?” Gordon asked Tulfo-Teo during the Senate blue ribbon hearing on the controversy.
To which Tulfo-Teo responded: “I didn’t know that Kilos Pronto is of Ben Tulfo, all I know is he is with Bitag. Di ko po alam na si Ben Tulfo ay Kilos Pronto, all I know is that..”
When Gordon cut her off to ask further why she didn’t know her brother’s businesses, she replied: “Hindi po kasi…wala akong time manood, di ko alam Kilos Pronto, Bitag alam ko…I’m always traveling.”
But Gordon pointed out that there are at least three documents that indicated that the ad placements would be shown in “Kilos Pronto.”
“In fact, nalito pa kami kasi lumalabas parang lumalbas, tinanong kita kanina, nagpirmahan kayo April, pero Aug. 15 (2017), meron na kayong agreement na gamitin yung pera para sa Kilos Pronto?”
“But my contract was between PTV-4 and DOT. ‘Yun lang po ang contract ko; beyond that I do not know kung saan ilalagay ni PTV-4 yung ads namin,” she reiterated.
Asked by Gordon if she believes PTV-4 executives were at fault, Tulfo-Teo said: “I think so.”
“From the very start I did not know, had I known it I would not have signed the contract,” she said.
But Gordon reiterated that the Constitution itself prohibits conflict of interest, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of office among public officials.
“Please… the Constitution prohibits conflict of interest…they should strictly avoid conflicts of interest in the conduct of their office,” Gordon pointed out.
“And every Filipino should know the Constitution. We have a saying in law, ignorance of the law excuses no one. I just want to tell you that, and because that is always your defense na di ko alam,” the senator lamented.
However, Tulfo-Teo reiterated that the contract “went through the process” and even passed the scrutiny of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the DOT.
“I trust my people because I know that they are competent,” Tulfo-Teo said.
To which Gordon retorted: “Therefore, I think they are incompetent now.”
Gordon also wondered why the PTV-4 officials had to specify “Kilos Pronto” in the contract.
However, Dino Apolonio, PTV-4 general manager, said it was part of the proposal submitted by the DOT. Tulfo-Teo immediately denied this.
But Apolonio later on clarified they indicated that the ad placements will be shown in Kilos Pronto in the draft proposal they submitted to the DOT.
But Apolonio and Ramon Del Rosario, PTV-4 air time management head, denied they were pressured to put Ben Tulfo’s show in the contract.
“We only suggested it to the DOT by way of proposal,” Apolonio said.
But Gordon told Tulfo-Teo that she should have asked the lawyers of the DOT to ensure that the contract would be devoid of any conflict of interest.
“Sinabi mo sana, ‘uy, yung Kilos Pronto, kapatid ko pala yan eh, baka may conflict of interest yan…” Gordon pointed out.